After a year of nationwide municipal competition and media buzz, Amazon has announced that it will split its “HQ2” between New York City and Arlington, VA, located just west of Washington, DC.
LGBT+ advocates had called for Amazon – one of the first 56 signatories to the Business Statement for Transgender Equality – to prioritize locating its HQ2 in a state and municipality where LGBT+ employees and their families would be protected from discrimination under the law, and feel welcome from a cultural perspective. Many of the cities Amazon originally shortlisted were in states that lack comprehensive legal protections for LGBT+ people, and where political processes have proven hostile to such protections.
While both designated locations have large and vibrant LGBT+ communities, the company’s split decision reflects the complex reality of nondiscrimination law in the United States.
New York state law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, but not gender identity. Republicans in the State Senate have declined to advance the Gender Expression Non Discrimination Act, or GENDA, out of the Judiciary Committee in each of the last 10 legislative sessions. New York City, along with 5 other major cities and 3 counties in the state, does protect individuals from discrimination on the basis of gender identity.
While nondiscrimination law in Virginia does not include sexual orientation or gender identity as protected classes, Arlington County’s nondiscrimination policy does prohibit discrimination in employment on the basis of sexual orientation.